DOWNEY Eighty percent of young women in the United States say they have little or no knowledge of lupus, according to a national online survey released this week by the Ad Council.In an effort to raise awareness of lupus among women who are at greatest risk for the disease, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health is joining Ad Council to launch a national multimedia public service advertising (PSA) campaign to address the disease. The PSA includes a testimonial from Artranese Brown, of Downey, who shares her personal struggles with lupus, including years of undiagnosed symptoms and the physical and emotional toll lupus has had on her. The campaign was unveiled recently by Acting Surgeon General Steven Galson and model Mercedes Yvette. The PSAs were distributed to media outlets nationwide. Lupus is a serious national health problem, affecting as many as one of every 200 Americans, according to the Lupus Foundation of America. Ninety percent of those with the disease are women and it is three times more common among minority women. As a chronic auto-immune disease, lupus causes the immune system to mistakenly attack the body's own healthy cells and tissue as though they were foreign invaders, such as bacteria or viruses. It is one of the least recognized diseases and one of the most difficult to diagnose. It is an inflammatory disease that can attack many body systems. The new PSA campaign primarily aims to reach minority women at childbearing age (18 to 44), who are at greatest risk of lupus. The objective is to help these women understand the disease and its effects and help them identify early warning signs so they can ask their doctor for a medical evaluation, officials said. "Despite its prevalence in the United States, lupus is rarely discussed and often misunderstood among women in our country," said Dr. Wanda Jones, deputy assistant secretary for women's health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS). "Through this campaign with the Ad Council, we can significantly increase awareness and help women achieve early diagnosis, which will give them the greatest chance for improved health and long-term survival." Without intervention, lupus can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, disability, and in many cases, death. The disease can have a wide range of symptoms, including fatigue, hair loss, painful or swollen joints, fever, skin rashes and kidney problems. However, in the majority of people who are living with lupus, early and effective treatment can minimize symptoms, reduce inflammation and pain, help maintain normal functions and prevent the development of serious complications. "I took my symptoms seriously and was able to get diagnosed and start treatment early. As a result, I've been able to lead a healthy life," explained Yvette, a Lupus Foundation of America spokesperson. "Taking care of myself is all about finding the right balance - the right doctors, the right meds, the right people and the right workout." "Our research found that lupus is not listed among the top health concerns for women and many have minimal knowledge of the disease," said Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of the Ad Council. "By increasing the level of awareness and understanding about lupus and its symptoms, we can encourage women to seek a medical evaluation early so they can take control of the disease and reduce their risk for serious complications." The Ad Council's survey found that only 18 percent of women are personally concerned about lupus. The majority of respondents expressed concern about other health-related conditions, including cancer (67 percent), depression (61 percent), high blood pressure (58 percent), diabetes (57 percent) and arthritis (52 percent). Approximately 29 percent could not correctly define lupus as an autoimmune disease, and 31 percent were not aware that women of childbearing age are most at risk.
********** Published: April 17, 2009 - Volume 7 - Issue 52